Bad Blood Brothers

Something is apparently rotten in Jonas world. I’ve written extensively about the various charms of the power-pop glorious siblings – from half-decent TV movies, to earnest solo efforts and featuring prominently on the Sexiest Males Alive list – but the latest round of news is much more dire. The band recently dismantled its Twitter account and canceled its upcoming tour, leading to speculation that the Jonas Brothers is now assigned sliding into oblivion. There alledgedly is a “deep rift” within the band, and I was not exactly comforted by anonymous sources claiming the cancellation was due to disagreement about its creative direction. Things like these happen all the time, but as Hanson attested to just recently, there are ways to work around them and hope that cooler heads – and perhaps the instinct of self-preservation – will prevail.

My immediate reaction was to always to approach reports based on anonymous sources skeptically. My second reaction was that, if there’s substance to the story, “disagreement about musical direction” sounds like a euphemism for something potentially more ominous, but since no one has expanded on those remarks, I’ll go with that for now. Creative tension is the lifeblood of any lasting pop success, and until now, the Jonas Brothers have actually been quite open to incorporating a multitude of influences into their music. Granted, on my favorite albums, Jonas Brothers (2007), A Little Bit Longer (2008) and Jonas L.A. (2011), they stuck relatively closely to the sunny bubblegum pop formula, with occasional outburts of 1990s-style college rock, but their uneven third album, 2009’s Lines, Vines and Trying Times, had traces of everything from country music to R&B. Likewise, Nick and Joe’s respective solo efforts, Who I Am (2010) and Fastlife (2011), at times expanded into funk and floor-filling dance music. What’s new this time, it seems, is that these influences have spilled uneasily into the Jonas Brothers realm, with the potential to blow up the band.

You probably can’t be an ambitious or successful artist without an outsized ego, and until we get credible word of something else, we have to assume that this is the driving force behind the so-called “rift”. Other sources in the same reports insist that the schism is entirely about music, and that the familial bonds remain strong. I hope that’s true. Whether the true reasons for the impending split/hiatus have been glossed over or not, it’s vital for the band as well as the family that they’re able to separate professional conflicts from the personal. Breakups are always hard, but rifts in a family can be even harder to overcome. Whether this ends in the band’s dissolution or not, I really hope the Jonases are able to stay on good terms.

As with Justin Bieber, I’ve long been kind of “protective” of the Jonas Brothers. Part of it obviously has to do with the fact that I like their music (and, let’s be honest, other aspects of their appearance, too), and also that their respective brands of music tend to be singled out for critical and popular scorn. Music with a particular, often calculated, appeal to pre-teen and teen girls (and, though rarely ever acknowledged, to gays of all ages) usually have a hard time with the Guardians Of Good Taste, not least because it has to struggle to be considered as music, and not just a marketing ploy. When I discovered that I liked both acts, after having initially dismissed them along those very lines, I happily threw my forceful support behind them, making it something like a point of pride and principle. Regular readers would recognize a similar pattern with my long struggle toward self-acceptance as a Fanson. Reading about the trouble in Jonas world brings out the same almost paternal instincts. I’m a fan, yes, but even more than I want them to be successful, I want them to make it through this rough patch as friends and partners.

As I’m writing this, everything seems to be up in the air. This could be a temporary crisis that is eventually resolved, with the band making a tour schedule and rethinking the album strategy. But since the band has not given additional comments after the cancellation news, and tabloid reports hint at problems that transcend a conflict about musical direction, it’s hard to know what to believe. According to some reports, even the upcoming album release could now be in limbo. But maybe – just maybe -that’s a good thing? I don’t know if it’d be good for the band to release a new record at a time when there’s palpable discord in its ranks, with the risk that it’ll be basically disowned, if promoted at all. I’d like to have a new album eventually, but it doesn’t have to be right now.

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4 Responses to Bad Blood Brothers

  1. I wasn’t even aware of TJB troubles until I read this post.

    Secretly, I hoped “One Direction” would be mentioned somehow, but maybe on another post. (I just caught up on all their albums. Excuse: as a prep to watch their documentary.)

    • queerlefty says:

      Franz,

      since I wrote this post the brothers decided to break up the band. They appear to at least be on speaking terms. Joe Jonas had a very illuminating tell-all essay in New York Magazine a few weeks ago.

      http://www.vulture.com/2013/11/joe-jonas-talks-jonas-brothers.html

      You don’t need an excuse to listen to One Direction. I love them. It’s the kind of sometimes schmaltzy, often rock-tinged arena pop that I always denied myself back in the nineties when I was a closeted Backstreet Boys fan. In some ways, it’s been the same thing with Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers. I saw this New Year’s resolution a couple of years back – “No guilty pleasures, only pleasures” – and I try to live by that, and own up to it.

      When I get around to post my Year in Music list – very heavy on country music for me this year, actually – 1D’s “Midnight Memories” will be an honorable mention,

      I saw “This Is Us” in a movie theater and liked it more than I thought I would. Sure, there’s lots of scripted fan services and “spontaneous” highjinks, but the guys are just so damn likable! It didn’t even shy away from some of the darker aspects of modern celebrity life, like the pressure it puts on their respective families. I’ve been planning to write about it for months, but I’ve learned not to promise anything.

  2. Thanks for the link. I’ve listened to a couple of songs by TJB but I must admit they’re not really my cup of tea. Still, the essay consists of some surprising things. Wasn’t there a documentary a few years back?

    As for 1D, it really started as an experiment for me. I wanted to jump into the movie at least knowing some of the songs since I know nothing about the band members. I can only remember one name: Harry Styles. But that’s only because one of my students talked about him like there was no tomorrow. I still don’t know the rest of their names. That’ll change soon, I think, given that Netflix has shipped the movie to my house due to arrive tomorrow.

    As for their music, I like it! There’s a progression to the albums which shows that they’re growing. I prefer “Midnight Memories” most because of the arena pop/rock songs you mentioned. Yeah, there aren’t super obvious singles like those in “Up All Night” and “Take Me Home,” but the flow is so much better and, I don’t know, I think it fits their band more. Plus, their slower songs are much stronger in MM than the other two. I’m interested to see how they’ll change it up on their 4th album.

    In the meantime, I look forward to the documentary. Interesting that you mention the movie tackles the darker aspects of celebrity life because I’ve read reviews saying that there isn’t enough of it.

    • queerlefty says:

      Franz,

      first: I’ve never seen anybody ever refer to Jonas Brothers as “TJB”. “JoBros” is common parlance, I think, heh. There wasn’t a documentary exactly (I think), but they released a very mediocre concert film, which was mostly drowned out by screaming fans. I prefer my JoBros fix in a controlled, slickly produced studio environment. At their best, they had a sunny, pop-punk approach I liked. Unfortunately, they also made a completely inexusable sitcom, which Joe Jonas rightfully trashes in the NYMag piece, and to forgettable Disney Channel movie. The least attractive brother, Kevin, had a reality show (Married to Jonas), and Nick’s been breaking into acting. I quite enjoyed his performance as Marius in the 25th anniversary stage production of “Les Miserables”. Also, I think he’s hot,

      “Midnight Memories” is my favorite 1D album as well. It’s too long, of course, but that almost goes with the genre these days. If I were to choose three favorite tracks (exempting “Story Of My Life” and the excellent “Best Song Ever”, which exist for me mostly independent of the album), I think I’d pick “Happily”, “Little Black Dress” and “Through The Dark”, There are many to choose from, however. I’ve been kind of obsessed with this record for the last couple of weeks, to be honest.

      I hope you enjoy “This Is Us”. Most of the time it’s just the likable 1D boys “having a laugh” (a phrase repeated endlessly), but it also contains some nice concert performances and ruminations on the band’s present and future. I like how they seem to be genuinely enjoying what their doing, and their personal chemistry comes off really well. At the same time, perhaps because they initially auditioned for “The X Factor” as solo artists, I don’t feel like they’ve been forced to embrace or play up a personality that runs fundamentally counter to who they are. At the same time they appear to be aware that fame can a fleeting thing, and neither of them are oblivious to the fact that the band could be history in a few years. That was kinda refreshing.

      I can see how one could criticize the movie for shying away from the darker, but in my opinion if you look for it. The intimidating nature of an unruly crowd is captured in an almost unsettling way, and some of the scenes with the boys’ families are genuinely sad. The families, while obviously proud, also struggle with a sense of loss from seeing so little of them.

      Please report back with thoughts. Thanks for commenting, as always.

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